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The English countryside is often seen as timeless, remote and shielded from the harshest problems of modern life. Yet, as Return of a Native reveals, it is to rural England that we must look for the roots of our current crises.
Beginning and ending at a crossroads in north west Hampshire, with feet planted firmly on the soil, Vron Ware brings her experience of writing about racism, colonial history, war and feminism to show us how to look at the land in a new light. With one eye on the parish and another on the distant horizon, she leaves no stone unturned in this quest to understand how we humans arrived at this place.
From Bronze Age ruins to the fall-out from Brexit, Return of a Native is an ecological reckoning with England’s future as well as its deep history.
Vron Ware has been writing about racism, gender, history and national identity since the 1980s. Her books include Beyond the Pale: White Women, Racism and History; Out of Whiteness: Color, Politics and Culture; Who Cares about Britishness?; and Military Migrants: Fighting for YOUR Country. She has worked as a journalist, photographer, environmental designer and academic. Click here to browse an extensive catalogue of her work http://vronware.org/
“A riveting environmental, historical and personal account, Return of a Native transforms our understanding of the local as Vron Ware reveals the complex connections of the land, its food and animal production and human and nonhuman inhabitants to global networks of agriculture, commerce and politics.”
“A thorough, enthralling and spirited reconstruction of what it took to be modern, Return of a Native is a gold mine. In this masterful exercise in retrospective geography, Vron Ware invites her reader to learn anew how touching the solid clay beneath our feet can yield such vibrant life, at least for the time being.”
“Return of a Native bears the compelling message that if you want to understand the world around you, look to the ground beneath your feet. Vron Ware excavates stories – about violence and resistance, growth and destruction – that shed new light on our own age, and should prompt us to rethink the way we relate to the land, to our histories and to one another.”
“Return of a Native begins at a crossroads; personal, familiar, and local. But as the signposts of its lyrical prose reveal, we are all stuck at a similar junction. The hedges of rural England have grown divisive, obscuring colonial links, capitalist abuses, agricultural failings, environmental damage, property inequities, and enduring exploitation. As Ware notes, the signs were there for anyone paying attention. Her subtle and fascinating research steers us round rural twist after rural turn towards what we can only hope will be a more equitable future.”
“A sly, luminous, brutal, and funny excavation of rural place through time, Return of a Native brings to mind not only Hardy but also Saramago. The churn of consciousness haunts every page. Ware raises from the ground an English village’s interdependence with otherwises and elsewheres of imperial modernity.”
“In the wake of the pandemic and as the borders between the rural and urban grow ever more porous, this illuminating anatomy of the English countryside is a timely read.”
“Return of a Native makes us understand the villages and landscapes of England without sentimentality or nostalgia. Like a twenty-first-century William Blake, Ware’s view of England’s ‘green and pleasant land’ is haunted by dark shadows and damage from its ruined soil, haunted colonial past, and national self-mutilations of Brexit. A brilliant, beautiful & chilling portrait of England’s fateful present.”
“In traversing the English countryside, comes an account which thinks beyond local histories and provincial politics. Ware gives us a moving and often funny personal story which offers a fresh look at urgent questions relating to environmentalism, colonial legacies, class, culture and nationalism.”
“A profoundly affecting and fierce case for re-finding the commons that once traversed and transcended the ownership mantras that have ousted and poisoned so much of the living world. Ware brings the world to bear on a hamlet, the smallest form of human settlement, and the hamlet, a piece of ground, to bear on the world and the planet.”
“This incisive work beautifully excavates the troubled, ultimately colonial, inheritance that haunts the making of modern British rural life.”